Even before the ‘home’ team, Liberia could navigate their way into Tangier, their adopted home at the northern coastal city of Morocco, the Super Eagles had landed.
According to the NFF director of communication, Ademola Olajire, 21 Super Eagles are already on ground and had had their first training session for Saturday’s match.
A win put the Super Eagles firmly on top of the Group C. In the media release issue on Tuesday, Captain Ahmed Musa and 20 other invited players were at the Super Eagles’ first training session.
The Super Eagles had a gym session at the hotel in the morning and were scheduled to train in the evening at the Grand Stade de Tanger (also known as Stade Ibn Batouta), a 45,000 –capacity facility that was opened in April 2011 but which will, sadly, be empty when Nigeria and Liberia tackle each other for three precious points on Saturday.
Like Central African Republic did last month in Douala, ‘hosts’ Liberia have made no move to get the Confederation of African Football to approve crowd attendance at the Day 5 game.
As at lunchtime on Tuesday, only forwards Victor Osimhen and Odion Jude Ighalo, as well as newly –drafted goalkeeper John Noble, were being expected in the camp.
Nine-pointer Nigeria need all three points from the encounter with the Lone Star in order to stay in contention to star in the knockout phase of the World Cup qualifiers, set for March 2022.
Only the group winners will proceed to the knockout phase that will be a home-and-away exercise to produce Africa’s five flagbearers in Qatar.
Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks, who hosts Central African Republic in Mindelo on Saturday, have seven points and will be hoping the Super Eagles stumble in North Africa.
However, the Super Eagles have scaled the hurdle in their last three major qualifying campaigns with matches to spare, and are confident they could reach the knockout round before the final day of the qualifiers by beating Liberia, and hoping Cape Verde are unhinged on home soil by the Beasts.
Nigeria reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals with a match to spare; a feat repeated in the qualifying series for the 2019 AFCON.
For the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon, the Super Eagles qualified with two matches to spare.
The Lone Star, bottom of Group C of the African series with three points, have a very remote chance of qualifying even though they play their final two matches at ‘home’ in Tangier, which is the venue they opted for as home ground after CAF ruled that there is no venue in the whole of Liberia fit and proper to host international matches.
Nigeria, the Lone Star’s opponents on Saturday and group leaders, already have nine points (the maximum that the Lone Star can amass in this campaign, if they win their last two matches).
But the Super Eagles have a home game against second –placed Cape Verde in Lagos on Tuesday next week.
After the session with the three –time African champions, the Lone Star will remain in Tangier for their final game of the campaign, against the Wild Beasts of Central African Republic, also on Tuesday next week.
Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks, with seven points, are at home to the Beasts on the island of Mindelo, hoping to garner another three points that could make the final Group C encounter with Nigeria in Lagos a cliff-hanger.